Female student attends class at The Citadel

January 21, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- It was a day like no other at The Citadel: The first female day student in the all-male college's 151-year history trying to plow through cameramen to make it to her first class on time.

As Shannon Faulkner, 19, reached the door of Duckett Hall for her biology class yesterday, a trip that was a year in the making through court injunctions and stays, Cynthia Fort, 17, shouted, "Go Shannon!"

Cynthia, a student at Sea Island Academy, shivered in 26-degree weather to see Ms. Faulkner "because I think it's constitutional that she go here and important to hold up American rights. I think what she's doing is for equal rights, and she's brave to do it."

Bryan Stokes, 33, a traffic signal technician in Charleston, came before work to catch a glimpse of Ms. Faulkner. "I want to see history taking place right before my eyes," he said.

Added Mr. Stokes, whose wife is earning a master's degree in The Citadel's evening graduate program, which accepts women, that was my daughter, I'd want her to have the right to go here."

But Ms. Faulkner is just barely "going" to The Citadel. Her admission to classes, upheld by U.S. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, does not give her other privileges at the publicly funded military school. She cannot drill with the corps of cadets or wear their uniform, live in the barracks or eat in the mess hall. And, because many of the committees and clubs are considered part of cadet life, it's doubtful she'll be permitted to join in activities as she and The Citadel wait for her discrimination lawsuit to go to trial.

Ms. Faulkner had hoped to begin with the freshman class in August, but her admission was halted by a stay at the eleventh hour.

In a news conference after her first class, which was on plant reproduction, Ms. Faulkner said: "I did have butterflies. It wasn't like anything I've ever done. I've never been in class with 30 guys and one female."

Ms. Faulkner's milestone came on her 19th birthday. When asked whether this day was her best birthday present, she hesitated, then said she hadn't received all her gifts yet. But she did receive an unwelcome gift: a ticket for parking in a faculty lot in her rush to get to class on time.

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